March 16, 2011

Students Make Paper Cranes To Support Japan

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In an outpouring of support and solidarity with earthquake-stricken Japan, Cornell students donated more than $5,000 to a campuswide fundraising effort as of Wednesday evening.Members of the Japan United States Association, the Japanese Graduate Students and Scholars Association, the Johnson Japan Club and the Cornell Asian Pacific Islander American Student Union mobilized a fundraising and awareness effort that began Saturday evening with the folding of origami cranes at Asia Night, an annual pan-Asian event held in Duffield Hall, according to Risa Naka ’11, president of JUSA.The donation drive and crane folding continued Tuesday in the Sage Hall atrium and Wednesday in the Willard Straight Hall Memorial Room. It will occur again Thursday on Ho Plaza. The organizers have not yet decided how best to allocate the donations to maximize relief efforts in Japan, according to Kayoko Hirata ’11, facilitator of CAPSU.“We want to make sure 100 percent of the donations are used to help out 100 percent in Japan,” Bradley Tanaka MBA ’12, president of JGSA and co-president of JJC, said.“Folding cranes also provides a good way of getting people talking,” said Vernice Arahan ’14, an intern with the Asian and Asian American Center. She has been volunteering her time at the event, teaching people how to fold origami cranes. By the end of Tuesday, Cornell students had completed more than 2,000 cranes, according to Naka.Naka explained that the cranes not only hold significant symbolic meaning, but they also provide a means of showing support by people who may not be able to donate any money.According to a popular Japanese tale, Sadako Sasaki — a young woman who suffered from radiation exposure in the wake of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and was later diagnosed with leukemia — began folding 1,000 origami cranes because an ancient legend promises a wish to anyone who folds 1,000 cranes. Sadako died before reaching her goal, but her friends finished folding 1,000 cranes and buried them with her.Once the donation drive concludes, the organizers will put the cranes on display in either Willard Straight Hall or the Asian American Studies Resource Center in Rockefeller Hall to sustain awareness for the relief efforts  in Japan, Naka said.“While the donations are certainly good, I don’t want this just to be the end of it,” said Hirata, who is still waiting to receive notification from a friend in Miyagi Prefecture. “I hope that we’ll be able to showcase these cranes to remind people of the tragedy and also to remind people that the recovery process is not just short-term but a matter of long-term investment to rebuild infrastructure.”What began as a few concerned individuals trying to provide a support network for students who have friends and family in Japan quickly transformed into a full-fledged mobilization effort. Naka and others are connecting with other colleges and universities to streamline fundraising efforts and to show solidarity across campuses.“To see the news about what’s happening Japan, and to have loved ones in Japan and not be able to contact them, isn’t easy,” said Naka, who heard Monday that her relatives in Tokyo and southern Japan were safe. “I really hope that they get good news, and I want them to know that there are so many resources here to help them through this.”Naka emphasized the importance of not only institutionalized support resources like counseling, but also less formal networks of support, such as talking with friends.“I really hope no one tries to go through this alone,” she said.Many community members commented on the speedy mobilization of the Cornell community in response to the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last week.Tanaka described the quick community response to the devastation in Japan and the tremendous amount of support that has emerged from throughout the University.“In one night, we had so many e-mails of support from different people and organizations,” Tanaka said, mentioning that he also received a personal e-mail from the dean of the Johnson School. “This quick response really shows how well we can come together,” he said.Janelle Teng ’11, who helped fold cranes Tuesday, noted a trend of supportive Cornell responses to tragedy.“I think students are really quick to support others when tragedy strikes, whether it’s on Cornell’s campus or across the world. In the past, we’ve seen programming come together really quickly, whether it’s a Caring Community Celebration or Haiti earthquake relief,” she said.Assistant Dean of Students Patricia Nguyen, director of the Asian and Asian American Center, also commended the quick mobilization of the community.  “Watching the response to the [Japan earthquake and] tsunami, I think I realized two things: that Cornellians are very giving and that people are certainly willing to come together and work for a common goal,” Nguyen said. “It just sucks that it had to take a crisis for this cooperation to really show.”The organizers of the donation drive will be collecting money and continuing to fold cranes in the coming weeks. Checks can be made payable to “Japan US Association,” with “Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund” in the memo.

Original Author: Lawrence Lan